Guest blogger Karen Petersen is Director of Annual and Planned Giving at the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology in Huntsville, Ala.
In my previous life, I was a TV reporter. My favorite part of the job was interviewing people and weaving their words together with mine to construct a compelling story. Little has changed since I changed careers.
In fundraising, we are all storytellers!
To tell the best stories, we need to find convincing characters who can provide passionate and powerful quotes. As Nancy has said in previous posts, “testimonials provide credibility.”
You may automatically reach out to external donors for your organization’s testimonials. However, you may be surprised by the storytellers you can find in the cube, office or even lab next door.
I work for a nonprofit research institute dedicated to improving human health and quality of life through genomic research, educational outreach and genomic medicine. The majority of my colleagues are self-professed nerds—brilliant introverts who believe less is more when it comes to all forms of communication.
Take Dan Dorset, for instance. He’s a computational biologist who spends hours at his computer, writing custom software and analyzing petabytes of genomic data. Dorset searches for genomic markers which can lead to urgently-needed diagnoses in clinical cases or groundbreaking discoveries in research.
Dan is also a dedicated donor, among the Institute’s 75 percent of employees who donate to the Institute through our annual Employee Giving Program. This year, I asked him to provide a testimonial for our campaign.
This was Dan’s first go: “I only donate to organizations that demonstrate competence in efficiently and effectively pursuing their stated objectives. As an employee of HudsonAlpha, I have no doubt that my donation is being put to good use for the advancement of beneficial scientific and medical knowledge.”
Sure, that would work for analytical folks, but we needed something to tug at heartstrings. I asked him to channel his inner “blue,” the emotionally-motivated shade of the True Colors personality assessment. He responded with this testimonial homerun:
“I’m lucky enough to work in the revolutionary field of genomics. The scientific advances have begun to reveal real medical solutions, and situations that were hopeless or sad now have answers. I’ve witnessed our team using genomics to save the life of a newborn. There is tremendous promise in this field, and the talent and structure at HudsonAlpha makes it the best in the world in terms of impact and innovation.”
Wow. It’s so easy for us to typecast people into their primary personalities, but we don’t fit into boxes and our testimonials shouldn’t, either. When considering his philanthropic options, Dan looks at the bottom line: numbers and fiscal responsibility. But he can also deliver heartfelt diamonds when encouraged to dig deep.
Dan’s testimonial, along with several others, recently prompted one employee-donor to increase her pledge by 400 percent. Her reason: “My co-workers inspired me.”
If you haven’t even asked your colleagues to give: What are you waiting for? Like Dan, they likely have generous support to give and, even more importantly, passionate, heartfelt stories to share.